Apostle to the Sioux

Thursday, July 7, AD 2011

“Happy would I be if I could sacrifice for God what Custer threw away to the world.”


Bishop Martin Marty

During his approximately 59 years on this Earth it is probable that the Sioux chieftan Sitting Bull met only one white man he trusted implicitly:  Martin Marty.

Marty was born on January 12, 1834 in Schwyz, Switzerland to a shoemaker and his wife.  Gifted scholastically, he attended the Benedictine school attached to Einseideln Abbey.  Upon graduation he entered the novitiate, taking his final vows in 1855 and being ordained a priest a year later.  It is quite likely he would have remained at the abbey for the remainder of his life, “of the world forgetting, and by the world forgot”,  except that in 1860 his abbot ordered him to take over a disobedient and debt-ridden daughter house of the abbey in Saint Meinrad, Indiana.  He performed a minor miracle in restoring the morale and faith of the monks at the abbey at Saint Meinrad and brought it back to fiscal solvency.  The abbot decided that he was doing such a good job that he should stay where he was in America.  In 1870, the Saint Meinrad Abbey achieved independent status by a Papal decree of Pius IX with Father Marty as the first abbot.  It continues in existence to this day as an abbey and a seminary.

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6 Responses to Apostle to the Sioux

  • St. Meinrad, pray for us.

    Recently, I had business with a man named Meinrad. I had never heard the name.

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  • I expect Sitting Bull also trusted Father de Smet, who is perhaps better known to casual historians of the West than Father Marty. de Smet mediated two treaties between the Sioux and the United States. One might say in these cases that Sitting Bull’s trust was misplaced–not because of anything de Smet did, but because of bad faith by the Americans.

  • http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/father-de-smet-talks-peace-with-sitting-bull

    I don’t think the trust was misplaced. The old ways for the Sioux and the other plains Indians were dying. The only hope for survival was the path of peace and education offered by missionaries such as Father DeSmet and Bishop Marty. Certainly war accomplished virtually nothing for the Plains Indians except speeding up the process of the ending of their traditional way of life, which was as doomed as the buffalo with the advent of the hordes of whites heading West.

  • Misplaced in an “objective” sense. de Smet himself remained completely trustworthjy. He had no power to force the United States to keep the treaties; and in any case the main violation, the invasion of the Black Hills, did not begin until 1874, after de Smet’s death.

    The way of life of the Plains Indians was no doubt doomed;but the United States did not keep its word.